A Common-Sense Approach to International Growth

Ahead of commercial strategy for Asia in the Business Intelligence Division of Informa, I work with approximately 162 people across the region. Our division focuses on data gathering to ensure that the right salespeople focus on the right markets. This helps position Informa to create products that simplify the way clients work by mitigating risk and saving time. Our company has been growing quite aggressively over the past few years, mainly through acquisitions. 

Two years ago, a director who took Pragmatic Institute training at a previous company advocated implementing it on our marketing team. I attended mainly because we were beginning to build local products for clients in Asia, especially in Japan and China. Using the Pragmatic Institute Framework has enabled us to become more strategic during this expansion. It supported us in getting the basics absolutely right, while also overlaying some things we hadn’t considered as best practices. 

Before training, we did things differently. When we had someone doing marketing communications execution in the local language, we’d ask them to do this without market-sizing exercises or any real work with customers.  We would in effect be guessing which events and social-media channels to run. It was crazy and it was way too much for individuals; they were generalists at everything and specialists in nothing.

We would also do something without thinking about time frames or how to do it or testing. Now we take a more streamlined approach in terms of time frames: when things need to be actioned and done, how to create business cases and ensuring that people buy into the vision at each stage. And we are starting to notice a difference. In some ways this is common sense. But it has ensured that we are executing in the right way. I’ve been able to influence people on the team to say, “You own this, these are the time frames, this is the vision, this is why we’re doing it. This is the outcome, this is the market sizing.” It allows for more debate and collaboration, and, ultimately, for a much better outcome. 

We now have teams that include product marketers and marketing communications professionals, rather than trying to blend the two roles like we did in the past. Our revamped marketing team now has 100 people split into five distinct markets. Each team includes six or seven product marketers, marketing communications, events marketing, social media and someone with local language skills for places like China and Japan. 

We know who is responsible for what part. I can ask teams to send me user personas or user journeys. We know which problems our customers are trying to solve and how we can help them. We couldn’t do that in the past. Now we find marketing problems using surveys and interviews and encourage clients to participate on panels. We focus on market sizing and understanding the customer. 

In fact, the training allowed me to refine a market-sizing exercise I had done a couple of months prior. The end result was a relatively simple—but robust—PowerPoint slide that made its way to our CEO and led to a large injection of money into China. Without that slide, I don’t think we would have gotten that money for at least a couple more years.


Incorporating facts in that slide allowed me to say, “Pragmatic Institute helped me to get the market sizing correct, and we strongly believe that these are accurate figures for the next two to three years. This is where we should be investing. These are the people that we should have on the ground with us.”
The way we approached the creation of a website for our Japanese market is another example of our change in focus. Japanese prospects prefer to deal with Japanese content, but all our websites were in English. In addition, service was based in the United States, resulting in time delays. The idea was simple: to create a Japanese version of our website and host it in Japan. In the past, we might have said, “Let’s just do a website that’s one size fits all.” But now we really thought about who would use the site.

We created a business case to get early buy-in from leadership. Then we put together a project management team and identified time frames that people could adhere to. Next, we contacted various vendors to locate the best partner for our project. We identified the types of clients and prospects that would use the site and tailored it to those user demographics.

We created pages for specific job titles, including one page for business development and another page for clinical operations. We made sure that time frames were adhered to and tested with wireframes along the way. We also brought in clients to ensure that the website worked effectively. The result was a cleaner, smoother, better outcome than in the past. 

Getting marketing leadership actively involved in training from the start was a critical piece. Without fail, every senior executive at least took Foundations. Attending training helped leadership buy in to the Pragmatic Institute Framework, and they wanted their teams to succeed as a result of that. In fact, leaders who attended training continue to ensure that the knowledge filters down to team members. Seeing the senior guys on the team take the training and scale it down for their more junior colleagues has been a revelation. We no longer spray and pray. There has been a fundamental shift, and teams are now working in a structured way that makes sense.
There is no doubt that Pragmatic Institute has helped us to grow in China and Japan. We now have an additional six or seven people between both countries and have seen growth rates of approximately 7 percent in Japan and 22 percent in China. In the same way that some companies say, “We use Salesforce,” we basically say, “We use the Pragmatic Institute Framework.” 

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Sam Kuhner

Sam Kuhner

Sam Kuhner is head of commercial strategy, AP, at Informa Business Intelligence, where he is responsible for the go-to-market strategy. He has more than 10 years of international sales and marketing experience and has lived and worked in London and Australia. He joined Informa through the Datamonitor acquisition, where he most recently held the role of sales and marketing manager, Australia. Prior to that, he was sales and client services manager across brands, including Lloyds List, Datamonitor, Ovum and Citeline. Sam livesin Australia and can be reached at samkuhner@gmail.com or linkedin.com/in/sam-kuhner-7977546.

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